Almost every day I read the sports section of the Baltimore Sun that I get at my house to check out obviously all the local sports news but during the summer I love to check it just to get the daily updates on the Orioles players’ stats. While I would already have a pretty good idea whether I checked the paper or not, I like to see the updates each day and to see how everyone is doing in comparison to the rest of the players on the team. But the more I read the stats the more I have to ask myself is how are the Orioles so good?
As everyone knows by now the O’s have gotten off to a great start this year as they are 41-31, have the 5th best record in the majors, and are in the lead of the wildcard in the American League at the end of June. But when you look at the stats and really think about it, the O’s are pretty underwhelming. In terms of hitting, 0 Orioles are hitting above .300, only one Oriole (that is qualified: over 72 AB’s or 1 at bat per game) is batting above .272 and that is Adam Jones and after Chris Davis at the .272 mark our 3rd highest average is Nick Markakis at .256. So our 3rd best hitter is hitting .256? Thats pretty bad. Then I looked at the team stats and we have 307 runs on the year which is good for 15th in the MLB, pretty much as average as you can get. So if it is not the batters that are leading this team then it must be the pitching right?
So then I checked out the pitching stats and realized that out of our 5 starting pitchers, only 2 of them have an ERA under 5.00. Really if you are an Orioles fan ask yourself: Who is the O’s 3rd best starting pitcher? Matusz? Arrieta? Hunter? None of these guys is having a very good year right now. Of course Hammel is pitching out of his mind and is a bona fide ace while Chen is looking like a very good #2 right now but we really only have 2 starting pitchers that we can count on. Looking at the team stats we are 10th in the majors in ERA so that is solid but being 10th in pitching and 15th in hitting still really doesn’t explain how we are 5th overall in the win/loss column? I mean really how does a team who has 2 reliable starting pitchers and the 15th best offense in the majors lead the AL wild card?
I think the only answer really is the bullpen. While I understand that the bullpens stats are part of the team’s pitching stats, without them I cringe to see how far down the O’s would be. If you really look at the O’s bullpen it is ridiculous. Out of the 8 guys who have been our primary bullpen fixtures this season thus far, 5 of them have an ERA under 2. Think about how incredible that is. We basically have 5 guys that we can go to that will pretty much all but shut down the other team once they come in. Our worst ERA of course lies with Kevin Gregg who has a bad but not horrific 4.82 and then our 2nd lowest is 3.24 in Dana Eveland. It’s funny looking at the stats because with ERA’s ranging from lowest to highest our last 3 guys are our last 3 starters (Matusz, Arrieta, Hunter) and Kevin Gregg is right above them with Chen right above him. So basically Chen who has been very good and easily our 2nd best starter this year is right below our “supposed” 2nd to worst reliever in Eveland. Pretty remarkable stuff.
It makes sense really because as a fan who watches pretty much every game, whenever one of relievers come in I basically expect the opposing team to not score anymore runs for the rest of the game. It is why we have won something like 7 or 8 extra inning games this year and why we have a record of 12-6 in 1 run games. If we have the lead they will most likely keep it and if we are behind they will hold the other team pat and give us a chance to come back. Obviously the bullpen will become even more and more crucial as the season wears on but really it should a confidence booster for our starters. They know that if they can just pitch 5 or 6 decent innings they can get to our shutdown bullpen who can keep their lead or keep the O’s close. I really do hope the O’s bullpen can keep up their current production because then once Markakis comes back and one or two of Hunter, Matusz, Arrieta, and Britton can really find their grove we could really make a solid push for the playoffs and actually might be favored to get in. It’s funny because the bullpen is rarely mentioned as one of the most important things for a team (certainly at least behind starting pitching and hitting) but for the Orioles thus far they have really been the savior.